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Monday, February 21, 2011

THE DUEL AT SILVER CREEK (1952)

Sharp, efficient Audie Murphy Western from Don Siegel about a gang of ‘claim jumpers’ who steal the deeds to silver mines and then murder the owners. When this happens to Murphy’s dad, the young man disappears for months and then shows up in town with revenge on his mind as the sharpshooting ‘Silver Kid.’ He makes a wary truce with town sheriff Stephen McNally and winds up as the new Deputy. But their plans are complicated by a bad woman who’s got her eye on the sheriff (Faith Domergue) and a good woman (Susan Cabot) who’s jealous over it. Don’t worry, the Kid will earn her affections, but nothing will fix the Sheriff’s bum trigger-finger. And Domergue tells the claim jumpers all about his weakness just as they’re getting ready to strike. (Shades of Samson & Delilah!) Siegel whips this up into a tasty little treat with lots of well-staged action stuff, some fierce horse chases, a surprisingly blunt strangulation that still delivers a nasty shock, and Lee Marvin in a nice early bit. He does briefly stick the camera inside a fireplace, but it’s the only bad camera placement in the pic. Best of all, Siegel gets a real performance out of Murphy, charming, funny, smart, articulate; a real movie star perf. But then, Siegel would do much the same for Elvis Presley on FLAMING STAR/’60. Hmm, is that what he taught Clint Eastwood?

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